Enemies Within Buhari’s Govt, National Assembly Frustrating Anti-corruption War – Femi Falana
The anti-corruption campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari is being repelled on two fronts from beneficiaries of corruption in the previous administration, and “enemies within” the government, a senior lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, has said.
In his lecture at the investiture of Dele Ologbede as the President of Rotary Club, Ikoyi, in Lagos on Sunday, Mr. Falana said after Nigerians had backed the government to reject claims of lopsided prosecution of anti-corruption campaign by those “from outside”, it was time for Mr. Buhari to fight the enemies within.
As enemies within, he made references to Minister of Interior and former Army Chief, Abdulraman Dambazzau; Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai; Comptroller-General of Prisons, Jafaru Ahmed; and the National Assembly.
“Since the Buhari administration commenced the war against corruption last year it has enjoyed the support of the Nigerian people,” Mr. Falana said in his speech which he sent to PREMIUM TIMES. “However, corruption is fighting back on two fronts. From outside the battlefront, the beneficiaries of corruption have accused the government of selectively targeting its political opponents in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). The allegation has been dismissed by Nigerians as all the suspects arrested by the EFCC have not denied their involvement in the mega looting of the treasury. Apart from the fact that majority of those who have been arrested are military officers and government contractors a number of the suspects who are members of the PDP have actually refunded part of the loot.”
He continued, “From the home front, it is evidently clear that some highly placed public officers who have been linked with corruption are trying desperately to discredit and sabotage the war. Disturbed by the clamour for the removal and prosecution of such individuals the government has urged Nigerians to stop making baseless allegations against serving public officers. In spite of the clarification by the government the online media have continued to substantiate the allegations of corruption against the Chief of Army Staff and the Minister of Interior.
“Instead of attacking the imaginary enemies of the government, the anti-corruption war calls for an urgent review of strategies. For instance, it was recently reported in the media that 3 ex-chiefs of army staff had been indicted by the arms procurement panel. But when the report was eventually released the name of one of the 3 security chiefs who is a serving minister was missing. Not unexpectedly, allegations of cover up were raised in the media. Embarrassed by the development the government reacted by denying any cover up and explained that the panel had not investigated the arms procurement from 2007-2010 when the minister served as the chief of army staff.
A fact-check by PREMIUM TIMES, showed that contrary to government claims, the arms procurement (2007-2015) probe panel investigated Mr. Dambazzau’s tenure as Army chief.
However, when the report was released, neither Mr. Dambazzau or Mr. Buratai were indicted, amidst allegations that the report was doctored. The federal government later said the probe exercise did not cover Mr. Dambazzau’s tenure as Chief of Army Staff.
“Before the release of the controversial report a group had alleged that the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai had purchased some properties worth $1.5 million in Dubai, United Arab Emirates,” Mr. Falana said.
“In defending the allegation the Nigerian Army claimed that the general bought the properties from his legitimate earnings. In confirming that the properties were declared the Code of Conduct Bureau claimed that the army chief had declared them in the name of his wife! Aside the statement the CCB should proceed to investigate and confirm that the properties were legitimately acquired from the income of the general. This investigation should be speedily and transparently conducted to assure the Nigerian people that there are no sacred cows in the prosecution of the war against corruption.
“Another official whose conduct ought to be investigated by the government is the comptroller-general of prisons, Mr. Jafaru. According to media reports which have not been denied the prison boss is alleged to have reduced his age by two years. Since two judges were recently dismissed for reducing their ages and ordered to refund the money they had illegally collected the comptroller- general of prisons ought to be removed from office without any further delay. Similarly, having identified the top civil servants in the Presidency who padded the 2016 national budget the federal government should hand them over to the EFCC for prosecution.”
In his speech, Mr. Falana expressed worry that the All Progressives Congress-led National Assembly is also allegedly frustrating the anti-corruption war.
Apart from the hot scandal of budget padding to the tune of N40 billion involving top members of the House of Representatives including the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, Mr. Falana said both Senators and House members short-changed Nigeria by sitting below number of days constitutionally stipulated but collecting full “jumbo” pay.
“Whereas section 63 of the Constitution provides that the Senate and the House of Representatives shall each sit for not less than 181 days in a year section 68 thereof states that any legislator who fails to attend the proceedings of the house or senate for less than one third of the required number of days shall automatically lose his or her seat. For the first legislative year which ended on 9/6/16 the 8th session of the national assembly did not meet the constitutional requirement. Specifically, due to incessant recesses the House of Representatives sat for only 104 days while the Senate sat for 96 days. This means that the senate sat for barely 50 percent of the required sitting period. Indeed, some of the senators who had to attend criminal courts where they are standing trial for corrupt practices did not seat for up to 70 days throughout the legislative year.
“The Senate was actually shut down on a number of occasions to enable the senate president, Dr Bukola Saraki to attend the proceedings of the Code of Conduct Tribunal where he is standing trial for false declaration of assets. And in solidarity with him, a number of senators abandoned their duties to accompany him to the Tribunal. Since the labour policy of “no work no pay” is applicable to all public officers the federal legislators ought not to have been paid when they did not perform any legislative duty. In other words, having failed to sit for the mandatory period of 181 days the legislators were not entitled to payment of full salaries and allowances for the whole legislative year.
“Having been paid full emoluments when they failed to sit for the required number of days the federal legislators ought to refund some money to the treasury. In the circumstance, the Accountant-General of the Federation should ensure that the legislators are made to refund the money collected for the number of days they failed to sit in the national assembly,” he said.
He asked the Government not to compromise the anti-corruption war. He also said that officials who cannot explain sources of their wealth should be thrown out. He called for prosecution of suspected corrupt officials.
Credit: Premium Times